Our crew arrived in Nakuru with a lot of good energy and excitement but—having left my wallet back in Nairobi—without any money. As the producer and the person responsible for managing the funding, it was an inauspicious beginning to this venture.
My first order of business was to call Nairobi and arrange to have someone bring it by hand. The volunteer was Sheila Gabeya, a lovely young Ugandan woman living in Kenya who has joined our team as writer and photographer. You’ll be seeing her posts in the coming weeks. I, frankly, am grateful to have someone share the communication burden.
I am told Nakuru is the “Las Vegas” of Kenya, which is a stretch, but at least you can find a lot of places where the dancing goes long into the night. We headed to one location where we sat, eight men waiting for our Nyama Choma or barbecue. It is, without a doubt, the favorite foods of most Kenyans, with a particular affection for goat. One thing likely to be true, the food is fresh because between ordering and eating two hours passed, and this seemed to be the norm. I did not complain though as the food when it finally arrived was very tasty. And as always, accompanied by a large portion of spinach and ugali (a corn based starch dish that served to bind both belly and food). I promise that no one leaves the table hungry.
The next morning we headed off to take drone shots of sunrise over the city which is always an adventure as people gather round to see what I sense appears to be magic. Everyone wanted to look to see what the drone was recording and Silas Fischer, our pilot, is inevitably surrounded by dozens of people.
The next activity was a visit with the director of the KMTC, (Kenyan Medical Training Center) of which there are more than 50 like it in the country. About one per county. These are the most important medical training facilities, and they produce tens of thousands of medical and health care workers. My interest was with their Clinical Officer program which is somewhat like a Nurse Practitioner. The graduates can do minor surgeries, including vasectomies. My intention was to see about getting this facility to consider setting up a vasectomy-training program.
We spent time with the director talking it through, and there was a lot of interest amongst the faculty and staff, all who seem to think a vasectomy is a hard sell in a country where polygamy is an acceptable family structure. We decide to organize a meeting that same evening so we can bring together a group of men and women to continue the conversation over “beer and goat meat.” Apparently, the offer of both is appealing and by 6:30 p.m. we are over 30 gathered for what is a “hot conversation.”
No question is left off the table. For example, one man asked, “When I sleep with my two wives at the same time, I get this tingling feeling in the back of my head. Will that go away if I get a vasectomy?” Sadly, I’m wasn’t sure exactly what he’ was talking about, but I told him his tingling feeling was safe.
One man wanted to know if there’s any discernible mark left on your body from the vasectomy. When I told him no, he asked if I’d show him exactly where the procedure is done. I offered to pull my pants down, but amidst a howl of laughter, I was assured it wouldn’t be necessary.
The women shook their heads to the affirmative as I challenged the men to consider vasectomy as a way to take the burden off of their wives. Pretty soon the men were shouting out, “If there were a doctor here, I swear I’d get a vasectomy right now on this very table.”
By the end of the evening dozens seemed to be on board, but to be honest, although generous and courageous in offering up their “vas” to be “-ectomied,” I was sure of two things, 1: there was no qualified doctor in the house (despite some of them misunderstanding my own professional status) and 2: given the amount of beer and goat consumed, we could never call their enthusiasm “informed consent!”
Donate to build a sustainable vasectomy outreach program in Kenya! We’re looking for $35,000. Will you help? https://igg.me/at/rrp0V1ZxLSw
Photo: Sheila Gabeya